When the birds scream

Lessons from the cockatoos

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  • Published 20231107
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-89-4
  • Extent: 207pp
  • Paperback, ePub, PDF, Kindle compatible

THE GULLY IS sheathed in mist and the air is water. Our footsteps crack along the pathway, and my breath, muffled in the hood of the rain jacket I bought at Big W just two hours ago, is warm and loud. The cockatoos are screeching. At first, it’s a few flying overhead, but the deeper we go into the gully the louder they are and the more there are, until the sky is no longer grey and cloudy but a swirl of white and yellow. They scream and scream, calling to each other. They’re not like magpies, whose voices are melodious and rich, and yet today the screeching is like a balm. My senses tingle, and each call sends a shot of pleasure down my spine. 

There are two whitefullas – staff from Varuna, where I’m on a residency for Blak writers – in our group, and one of them remarks that the cockatoos are in plague proportions here. ‘They strip all the trees and leave such a mess,’ they say. There’s an irony in these words: an out-of-control flock of white birds – native birds – overtaking Country. Stripping fruit trees foreign to this place and leaving a mess for the other out-of-control flock of whitefullas to clean up. David, the Gundungurra man who is showing us around this place, gives me a smile, as though he knows what I’m thinking.

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About the author

Melanie Saward

Melanie Saward is a proud descendant of the Bigambul and Wakka Wakka peoples. She is a writer, editor and university lecturer based in Tulmur...

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